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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research Group: Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate

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Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate has a critical mass of nearly 50 researchers and a suite of state-of-the-art geochemical, magnetic and micropalaeontological laboratories. Our research is global in scope. We work in all parts of the world to understand how Earth works and how it will respond to humans having become the main agent of change.  

Our specific research themes include:

JOIDES Resolution
JOIDES Resolution

How does life originate, proliferate, and dissipate? We exploit the exceptionally well-resolved microfossil record to study link environmental change and evolutionary processes. We are motivated to understand the ways in which environmental change shapes speciation, origination and extinction that together determine biodiversity dynamics through Earth’s history and into its future.

What does a 3 to 5°C warmer world look like? We study past climate states, including intervals of strong greenhouse gas forcing, to understand the way the Earth system works, place human-driven change in context and identify future pathways to avoid the most dangerous impacts of global change. 

Where will climate change be most acute? Humans will experience global change regionally. We want to understand how warming globally will lead to different outcomes in different parts of the world. We use samples from the continents and oceans together with climate models to study the regional expressions of temperature, precipitation and ice cover response to global change. 

How fast does climate change? The history of Earth is a story of constant change. Earth’s surface and interior processes change on time scales ranging from hundreds to millions of years. We build high-precision chronologies for sedimentary archives to diagnose the timing, duration, and rates of natural and anthropogenic change.

For more information about the group, its activities or to gain access to our facilities please contact Professor Paul Wilson.

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Sea ice in the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica
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Coring deep sea sediments off NW Africa
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Iceberg melting in the Southern Ocean
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Desert panorama in Arabia
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3D imaging foraminifera
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Picking foraminifera to assess their evolutionary and environmental histories

The Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate Research Group is equipped with state-of-the-art research laboratories.

These laboratories are used for a wide range of research purposes and upper level project work.

Palaeomagnetism and Environmental Magnetism Laboratory

The Palaeomagnetism and Environmental Magnetism Laboratory houses a list of state-of-the-art instrumentation as well as a shielded room to support palaeomagnetism, rock and mineral magnetism, magnetic stratigraphy and palaeoenvironmental-related research. With instruments including a Princeton Measurements Corporation MicroMag 3900 Vibrating Sample Magnetometer and an AGICO KLY4S Kappabridge, magnetic properties of samples can be studied in detail at a range of temperatures to determine the concentration, grain size and mineralogy of magnetic particles in samples. A 2G Enterprises Superconducting Rock Magnetometer provides the capability to rapidly and accurately measure the natural and various laboratory-induced magnetic remanence for continuous and discrete samples. For further information, contact Dr Chuang Xuan, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6401.

Stable Isotope Ratio Mass-Spectrometry (SIRMS) Laboratory

The SIRMS laboratory was established in 1998 with NERC, HEFCE-SRIF and ESSO funds. The facilities function is the measurement of stable isotope ratios of various materials including 13C and 18O in carbonates (sediments and foraminifera), 13C and 15N in organic materials (plankton and soils), 18O in water samples and deuterium in water samples. For further information, contact Bastian Hambach, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6573, Professor Paul Wilson, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6164 or  Dr Steven Bohaty, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 3040.

Scanning Electron Microscope Laboratory

The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) facility was established in 2001, originally funded by NERC, the University of Southampton and Carl Zeiss SMT Ltd, to support high-resolution palaeoceanographical, palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental research. The instrumentation includes a Leo 1450VP SEM and an Oxford Instruments X-Act 10mm2 area SDD EDS Detector, utilising the AZtecEnergy software system. A range of services are offered, including secondary electron and backscattered electron imaging, automated image acquisition, elemental mapping and qualitative and quantitative elemental spot analysis. Museum and other sensitive specimens can be safely imaged or chemically analysed using the SEM variable pressure (VP) mode.

The SEM facility is a research and teaching resource available for use by staff, postgraduate students and final year undergraduate students. The facility is also available for use by staff in other university departments and commercial clients. We have expertise in the examination of geological, metallurgical and some biological materials. For further information, contact Dr Richard Pearce, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6477/6518.

X-Ray Diffraction Laboratory

The X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) facility located at NOCS provides a service for the qualitative or quantitative analysis of rock samples to determine bulk mineralogy and/or clay mineralogy. Samples are run on a Philips X'Pert pro XRD machine with a Cu X-ray tube. Mineral identification is undertaken using the JC PDS (powder diffraction studies) database. For further information, contact Dr Richard Pearce, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6477.

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Amy Jewell
Image credit: Amy Jewell
Amy Jewell
Image credit: Amy Jewell

Image left: PhD student Amy Jewell on fieldwork in the Sahara and going to sea in the Falkland Islands.

Image right: Amy working in the lab and presenting results at an international conference, Sidney.

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